14 And he called the people to him again, and said to them, "Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a man which by going into him can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him." 17 And when he had entered the house, and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, "Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a man from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters, not his heart but his stomach, and so passes on?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, "What comes out of a man is what defiles a man. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man."
Where does evil come from and can we eliminate it from our personal lives? Jesus deals with this issue in response to the religious leaders' concern with ritual defilement – making oneself unfit to offer acceptable worship and sacrifice to God. The religious leaders were very concerned with avoiding ritual defilement, some no doubt out of reverent fear of God, and others because they wanted to be seen as observant Jews.
Jesus points his listeners to the source of true defilement – evil desires which come from inside a person's innermost being. Sin does not just happen from external forces. It first springs from the innermost recesses of our thoughts and intentions, from the secret desires which only the individual mind and heart can conceive.
When Cain became jealous of his brother Abel, God warned him to guard his own heart: "Sin is couching at the door; it's desire is for you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:7). Cain unfortunately did not take God's warning to heart. He allowed his jealousy to grow into spite and hatred for his brother, and he began to look for an opportunity to eliminate his brother alltogether.
When jealously and other sinful desires come knocking at the door of your heart, how do you respond? Do you entertain them and allow them to overtake you? Fortunately God does not leave us alone in our struggle with hurtful desires and sinful tendencies. He gives us the grace and strength we need to resist and overcome sin when it couches at the door of our heart.
The Lord wants to set us free from the burden of guilt and from the destructive force of sin in our personal lives. He wants to purify our hearts and renew our minds so we can love and act in every situation as he would love and act.
The Lord is ready to change and purify our hearts through the grace and help of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Like a physician who probes the wound before treating it, God through his Word and Spirit first brings sin into the light that we may recognize it for what it truly is and call upon his mercy and grace for pardon and healing. The Spirit of truth is our Consoler and Helper.
His power and grace enables us to choose what is good and to reject what is evil. Do you believe in the power of God's love to heal, change, and transform your heart and mind?